Editorial Comment: Practice placement crisis

It’s desperate to see a university slashing the number of students on the social work degree when it has nothing to do with workforce planning.

While the demand for well qualified social workers is higher than ever, colleges are struggling to deliver the vocational elements to the degree.

Practice placements, where students gain first-hand experience, are thin on the ground, particularly in London. Too many social work teams are refusing to run them.

It’s becoming a vicious cycle. Teams with recruitment and retention problems are less likely to offer them because they use a lot of agency staff and can’t offer the mentoring required. But, if they don’t, they diminish their chances of landing graduate recruits.

So, how do we build the capability in teams to run quality placements? Managers need to make the link between practice placements and developing a more effective and stable workforce. This also needs central support and co-ordination. It’s not a new issue – the Practice Learning Taskforce was set up specifically to increase the quantity and quality of practice learning before responsibility was passed to Skills for Care. We need to refresh how teams can be supported to offer placements.

The profession has taken great strides towards being better trained and trusted, and the practice learning crisis cannot be allowed to compromise that progress.

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Mike Broad

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